I came across a tweet from Richard Barrow (one of the most well known travel bloggers in Thailand) about a month ago that said:
I only spend about 10 minutes twice a month on my Thai lottery result website but it makes more money than all of my blogs combined.
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) October 1, 2015
At first I thought that was a little odd as he gets thousands of visitors per day, he must be making a pretty penny or seven. But from looking at his sites, Richard’s blogging intentions are for fun and not a way to make money in Thailand.
He even told me that he wants to get rid of all his ad banners and become advert free, even his Twitter profile states he does not accept paid blogs or tweets.
Unlike me, Richard does not swindle his visitors for their hard earned cash. Richard blogs because he enjoys doing it, not to make money.
But his tweet got me thinking, is starting a blog a good way to make money online in 2015?
How many travel blogs make more than $1,500 per month? I think answer is somewhere near 1%.
How do travel blogs make money? Usually by any of the following:
1. Banner advertisements
If you plan to start a travel blog and hope to monetize it with banner ads….
The average banner ad click-through rate is extremely poor (less than 0.5%) and most travel blogs would be lucky to get more than $50 per month for a placement. With more Internet users having ad blockers, they are becoming a less effective way to generate income.
Bob in Oz runs a great site for people moving to Australia, and only changes $80AUD for banner ads which is great value. I think Bob is one of the exceptions to this rule and could easily charge more than $100AUD+ for his ad slots if he wanted.
2. Agoda and hotel bookings
Getting paid to affiliate hotel bookings used to be good times. I used to make about $50-$150 per month, which was great as all I had to do was review a hotel and collect my monthly paychecks.
But a year or so ago Agoda changed the way they pay and track sales, and now I’d be lucky to get more than $20 a month. In fact, I took all my Agoda links off as a result.
3. Selling your own digital products
Selling your own products is the best way to make money from a travel website as you’re in complete control of everything.
At this moment in time I only sell one eBook on how to become an online freelancer, but there’s a lot of bloggers who offer consultation services like A Couple Travelers, create travel guides and plans like Tie Land To Thailand, and offer their own online courses like Muay Thai Guy.
There’s a lot of things you can sell and offer once you build an audience and your readers trust you.
Take me for example, my eBook alone has generated me more than a few thousand USD in 4 months and I’ve done almost zero promotion. Asides from the banner on the right hand side of my website and a few blog posts about online freelancing, I have done pretty much nothing to promote it:
Truth be told, I could probably sell a lot more copies if I really pushed it.
There’s no reason why I couldn’t make more products related to Thailand and sell them, like how to learn basic phrases and stuff. It’s actually why I’m talking more about ways to make money in Thailand as I may do soon.
But yeah, creating your own products and knowing how to promote them is the best way to go to make money travel blogging.
Higher end stuff like courses, consultations and VIP memberships to site will rake you more cash than eBooks but also require more effort.
4. Free stuff
As a travel blogger you get a lot of free stuff. I’ll often get 50% off hotel prices, free tickets to events and get asked to do reviews. I don’t get nearly as many get as most starlight down the line travel blogs because I write articles about some ‘taboo’ subjects.
Hardly a reason to quit your job and start travel blogging though. Only the real big blogs (the 1%) will get free first class flights and hotel stays at 5* venues. Everyone else will have to suck it (me included).
5. Affiliating in general
Affiliating is basically promoting someone else’s product and you get a fee. For example, reviewing a hotel and placing links for visitors to click and book is affiliating. This is easy because you don’t have to create a product or ship anything. You simply drive traffic to someone else’s website and hope they buy something.
After creating your own products, this is where most people make their money travel blogging. You can affiliate almost anything. Every single item on the Amazon store you can affiliate and get between 4-8% per sale, some sites offer as much as 100%.
I have a few other sites where I outsourced everything and got people to write the content and now I earn a few thousand bath a month from each of them.
I wouldn’t suggest you use Amazon as there’s much better affiliates out there.
For example, my friend Nomad Philippines is a poker player and you can see all the poker affiliates links they have. A sale there can net you as much as $600.
6. Selling your services
Most travel bloggers don’t make money from their travel blog, they make it from selling their services. Many are actually freelances like myself. Paper Planes is one great example of a decent blogger who is also a freelancer writer and Brendon another.
Okay, this is the bit where I plug my awesome eBook, just click the obnoxious banner below to check it out:
Google AdSense is very much like using banner ads except Google finds the advertisers for you. You simply place a few ads on your site, and if your traffic clicks, you make money.
I don’t use Google AdSense on this website as it would breach their T&C, but on another one of my websites I make a little bit of passive income:
Once again, nothing to write home about.
Google AdSense is a numbers game, the more people you bring to your website, the more clicks these ads get, the more you make. You can make as much as $10 per 1,000 visitors using this method, but often you’ll be in the $1-$4 range.
Can you make $2,000+ from travel blogging?
You can can for sure, but it’s not easy.
If you manage to find a travel blogger who tells you they cover all their living and travel costs by travel blogging, they are part of the 1% I was talking about earlier.
99% of travel bloggers will make less than $300 per month, but there’s that 1% who make enough money that they don’t have to work.
You can become one of them too, but with so many travel blogs popping up, it’s getting harder everyday.
Should you start a blog?
Everybody is jumping onto the digital nomad bandwagon making it harder for websites to rank on Google, and the cost of using paid ads is always increasing.
In 2001, it was very easy to setup a travel blog and rake $2,000 or more within a 6 months. Today it can take 10x as much effort and you may earn 10x as less. But the same can be said if you started a fashion blog, an e-commence store or a your very own dating site.
The truth is everything is hard, but if you put in the effort you can do anything , even if you know nothing but are willing to learn.
With more people traveling and flights getting cheaper, starting a travel blog isn’t the worst idea. But if your goal is to make $5,000 or more per month online, I’d probably avoid travel blogging to make mooney and focus on something bigger like setting up an actual online business.